The war in Iraq has been going on for seven days already. Obviously, it is too early to say that the allied troops of the American and British forces have achieved any progress that would be visible at first sight. On the contrary, one shall assume that the allies’ situation is far from being the best. However, it would not be absolutely correct to say that it was all caused on account of the strong resistance that the Iraqi army showed. As it turns out, sandstorms are guilty of the failure.
To all appearances, American military men decided that it would be best for them to copy the tactics of their Iraqi “colleagues,” but in a greater scale, of course. For example, Western news agencies and television channels keep reporting severe battles on the outskirts of the town of an-Najaf, 160 kilometers to the south of Baghdad. News stories said that the losses of the Iraqi army were growing every hour. At first it was said that there were 150 Iraqi soldiers killed, then the number increased to 200, then to 500 and finally stopped at 750. Nothing was reported about the losses of the allied troops.
The Iraqi television was put out of order last night with an experimental electronic bomb. This bomb is a device, which generates powerful electromagnetic impulses. The broadcast has already been resumed.
Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone was pronounced dead at an Army field hospital in Kuwait. The general was wounded as a result of an Iraqi serviceman's attack on the staff tent, where the general was staying.
Members of the Iraqi volunteer corps put out of action two Abrams tanks of the US forces. This was said by a CNN correspondent, who reports news from the deployment of American units to the south of Baghdad. As it was reported, tanks were hit with anti-tank guided missiles. Tanks’ crews are reportedly safe.
Earlier, it became known that two British Challenger II tanks shot each other by mistake. The British Defense Ministry confirmed the information. As it was said in a statement from the British Defense Ministry, four crewmembers of Challenger II tank battled Iraqi troops in the area to the west of Basra. The tank fired a shot in the direction of another Challenger II tank by mistake. Two servicemen of four crewmembers of another tank died. Wounded servicemen were hospitalized.
The offensive on Baghdad was suspended on account of bad weather. Battles for Basra were ceased for the same reason. Weather forecasters say that the sandstorm will last until the nighttime.
It has recently become known that an American missile blew up on a marketplace in Baghdad. Not less than 15 people were killed
as a result, according to the information from Iraqi authorities.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Wednesday poured scorn on claims by the United States that its forces were "liberating" Iraq, saying these assertions were far removed from reality.
Ivanov told Russia's upper house of parliament: "It is already becoming clear how far removed from reality are their attempts to present military action against Iraq as a triumphant march for the liberation of the Iraqi people with minimal casualties and destruction."
Expressing the sense of the Senate concerning the continuous repression of freedoms within Iran and of individual human rights abuses, particularly with regard to women.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. BROWNBACK (for himself, Mr. WYDEN, Mr. COLEMAN, Mr. CORNYN, and Mr. CAMPBELL) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
Whereas the people of the United States respect the Iranian people and value the contributions that Iran's culture has made to world civilization for over 3 millennia;
Whereas the Iranian people aspire to democracy, civil, political, and religious rights, and the rule of law, as evidenced by increasingly frequent antigovernment and anti-Khatami demonstrations within Iran and by statements of numerous Iranian expatriates and dissidents;
Whereas Iran is an ideological dictatorship presided over by an unelected Supreme Leader with limitless veto power, an unelected Expediency Council and Council of Guardians capable of eviscerating any reforms, and a President elected only after the aforementioned disqualified 234 other candidates for being too liberal, reformist, or secular;
Whereas the Iranian Government has been developing a uranium enrichment program that by 2005 is expected to be capable of producing several nuclear weapons each year, which would further threaten nations in the region and around the world;
Whereas the United States recognizes the Iranian peoples' concerns that President Muhammad Khatami's rhetoric has not been matched by his actions;
Whereas President Khatami clearly lacks the ability and inclination to change the behavior of the State of Iran either toward the vast majority of Iranians who seek freedom or toward the international community;
Whereas political repression, newspaper censorship, corruption, vigilante intimidation, arbitrary imprisonment of students, and public executions have increased since President Khatami's inauguration in 1997;
Whereas men and women are not equal under the laws of Iran and women are legally deprived of their basic rights;
Whereas the Iranian Government shipped 50 tons of sophisticated weaponry to the Palestinian Authority despite Chairman Arafat's cease-fire agreement, consistently seeks to undermine the Middle East peace process, provides safe-haven to al-Qa'ida and Taliban terrorists, allows transit of arms for guerrillas seeking to undermine our ally Turkey, provides transit of terrorists seeking to destabilize the United States-protected safe-haven in Iraq , and develops weapons of mass destruction;
Whereas since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and despite rhetorical protestations to the contrary, the Government of Iran has actively and repeatedly sought to undermine the United States war on terror;
Whereas there is a broad-based movement for change in Iran that represents all sectors of Iranian society, including youth, women, student bodies, military personnel, and even religious figures, that is pro-democratic, believes in secular government, and is yearning to live in freedom;
Whereas following the tragedies of September 11, 2001, tens of thousands of Iranians filled the streets spontaneously and in solidarity with the United States and the victims of the terrorist attacks; and
Whereas the people of Iran deserve the support of the American people: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that--
(1) legitimizing the regime in Iran stifles the growth of the genuine democratic forces in Iran and does not serve the national security interest of the United States;
(2) positive gestures of the United States toward Iran should be directed toward the people of Iran, and not political figures whose survival depends upon preservation of the current regime; and
(3) it should be the policy of the United States to seek a genuine democratic government in Iran that will restore freedom to the Iranian people, abandon terrorism, and live in peace and security with the international community.
(note: emphasis above is mine and is for reflection. I didn't realize that Iraq was a US safe-haven. Is this a pre-imptive move on congress? Are the making assumptions to build a case against Iran as the next target?)
Afghans Fear Being Eclipsed by War on Iraq
KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) - One of the world's most complex and xenophobic people, Afghans do not normally agree on much, including the presence of U.S.-led forces in their country.
But they have been united by a collective fear of new turmoil if the international community turns its sights elsewhere as the United States confronts Iraq.
The big fear is the battered nation will again descend into civil war, fractured along ethnic lines as it was in the 1990s when the United States washed its hands of Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviet empire.
Many of the factions which fought each other then still control territory and some have clashed since the U.S. military and its Western allies came to Afghanistan in late 2001 and drove from power the Taliban and their al Qaeda network allies.
The United States has promised Afghanistan a broad-based democratic government, new infrastructure and that the impoverished, war-ravaged nation will not be abandoned again.
"The Americans have lots of unfinished business here to complete," said Timoor Shah, a building contractor. "Why are they going to war against Iraq when they have not sorted out problems here like lack of security, the most important thing for us?
"There is a potential threat from lots of groups to security and I am perhaps like other people here afraid of the situation if an attack begins on Iraq," he said, sipping tea in a small restaurant, a common spot for Afghans to swap gossip and news.
FEAR OF OBLIVION
People sitting huddled nearby nodded in agreement.
"If we don't have security, as is the case in several parts of the country, then reconstruction may not take place," said Nadeem, a bookseller. "I don't have much hope about the situation improving. I feel we will go again into oblivion.
"The Americans will keep saying they will not desert us again, but in reality the attention will shift to Iraq and we may end up seeing fighting between commanders here and there.
"You don't see much sign of reconstruction activity here now and if war starts and finishes in Iraq, then the focus of rebuilding will shift there."
The United States has repeatedly said it is committed to rebuilding Afghanistan despite its preoccupation with Iraq, North Korea and other trouble spots.
Besides the specter of new fighting among unruly commanders, the remnants of the ousted Taliban and al Qaeda and supporters of Islamic warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar could also resort to sabotage if war breaks out in Iraq, international peacekeepers say.
Taliban and Hekmatyar followers are blamed for several rocket and bomb attacks on coalition forces and other targets in Afghanistan over the past 16 months.
Those include an attempt to kill President Hamid Karzai in the southern city of Kandahar and a bomb blast in Kabul that killed 26 and wounded about 150.
In the past six weeks, almost 40 civilians and government soldiers have been killed or wounded in blasts in the South, once the Taliban's main stronghold, where Taliban and Hekmatyar forces and al Qaeda sympathizers are believed to be dispersed.
Islamic clerics in the South have repeatedly urged people in mosques to rise in holy war against Karzai and the foreign forces. Residents believe such calls will gather momentum if the United States invades Iraq.
Afghan officials and experts say the Taliban is regrouping just over the border in Pakistan. The officials have demanded that Pakistan does not let its Inter-Services Intelligence agency resume support for the hard-liners.
Pakistan, a front-line ally of the United States in the war against terrorism, denies its intelligence agents are still helping the fundamentalist Taliban.
"International pressure should be brought on Pakistan to adopt a transparent stance regarding Afghanistan, otherwise the situation will deteriorate," analyst Amin Sahir wrote in a leading Afghan government-controlled newspaper, Anis.
"The enemies of peace, helped by arms supplies, will step up attacks in the southern areas simultaneously with a U.S.-led war on Iraq," he said.
SOMETHING AMERICANS SHOULD BE THINKING ABOUT: Bush Sr's Carlyle Group Gets Fat On War And Conflict
High-flying venture capital firm Carlyle Group cashes in when the tanks roll, writes Jamie Doward...
It is the sort of thing they really could have done without. For 15 years one of America's most powerful venture capital groups has tried to play down suggestions that its multi-billion dollar funds get fat on the back of global conflict. But now, with the invasion of Iraq under way, a new book chronicling the relatively short history of the Carlyle Group threatens to draw attention to the company's close links with the Pentagon.
Dan Briody, author of the Iron Triangle, Inside the Secret World of the Carlyle Group, alleges the company's executives were so worried about his book they told staff not to talk to him. The Carlyle Group rejects this and argues the book is little more than a cuttings job based around some of the more crazy conspiracy theories found on the internet. It also points out that only around 7 per cent of its funds are invested in defence companies, far less than several other venture capital groups.
'Peel away the layers of factual errors and self-righteousness and all you're left with is baseless innuendo. This book should be exposed for what it is: a compilation of recycled conspiracy theories masquerading as investigative journalism,' said Chris Ullman, Carlyle's spokesman.
But Briody's account of how an upstart venture capital firm went from nothing to managing funds of nearly $14 billion in just 15 years, earning investors returns of around 36 per cent, is likely to reinforce the controversial image of the Carlyle Group and raise concerns about its influence in Washington and beyond.
Sometimes called the Ex-Presidents Club, Carlyle has a glittering array of ex-politicians and big league bankers on its board. Former secretary of state James Baker is managing director while ex-secretary of defence Frank Carlucci is chairman. George Bush senior is an adviser. John Major heads up its European operations. To give the conspiracy theorists plenty of ammunition, US newspapers have also highlighted the fact that current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a wrestling partner of Carlucci's at Princeton and the two have remained close friends ever since.
Interestingly though, Briody's book chronicles how Carlyle was founded by two relative unknowns - Stephen Norris, a former executive with the Marriott hotels group, and David Rubenstein, a Washington lawyer and former policy assistant to Jimmy Carter. The two men saved Marriott millions by spotting a tax loophole that the company exploited to great effect. Buoyed by their success, Norris and Rubenstein struck out on their own and recruited two other co-founders, Marriott executive Dan D'Aniello and corporate financier William Conway.
Initially the group - named after New York's Carlyle hotel - shied away from the defence sector and its early investment record was spectacularly unsuccessful. It backed a management-led buyout of Caterair and appointed George W Bush to the board. The company bombed and was quickly branded Crater Air by Wall Street. Norris, who presided over the deal, jumped ship, followed by Bush Jr shortly before the company's woes became public in 1994.
The appointment of Carlucci to the company board marked a new phase in Carlyle's history. It was Carlucci who spearheaded the $130 million acquisition of BDM Consulting in 1990. The company was a specialist in the defence contracting business and had a formidable network of contacts thanks to its CEO, Earle Williams, a close friend of Carlucci. It was a good time for the Carlyle Group. Defence contracts were being slashed as the Cold War ended and cheap buyout opportunities were everywhere.
Carlyle identified a key target: Vinnell. Few people have heard of Vinnell. It started life building airstrips, but by the 1970s was training Saudi troops to protect oil fields. Unlike other US firms it stayed in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War and by the time Carlyle snapped the firm up in 1992 it had built up the country's national guard from 26,000 to 70,000 troops. Carlyle sold its interest in Vinnell in 1997.
But perhaps Carlyle's most famous acquisition was United Defense in 1997. The company had developed a huge 40-tonne howitzer, the Crusader, which, despite widespread opposition from the army, was commissioned by the Pentagon. The $665m contract was signed just two weeks after the attacks on the twin towers and less than a month later Carlyle decided to take the company public in a move that was to earn the group nearly $240m. Months later the Crusader programme was scrapped while United Defense was handed a new contract to build a lighter gun.
At the same time it emerged that the bin Laden family - estranged from their terrorist son - was an investor in the Carlyle fund that owned United Defense. The backlash was ferocious. Carlyle hired a PR firm but the group was under siege. In an astonishing move Democrat Representative Cynthia McKinney cited the Carlyle Group as an example of an organisation 'close to this administration poised to make huge profits off America's new war'. The bin Laden family sold their stakes in the fund. A spokesman said their investment was valued at 'only' around $2m, although Briody quotes insiders who say the family's investment had been significantly greater in the past.
In the wake of 11 September came a fear of anthrax attack. One company that benefited was Pittsburgh- based IT Group, which won a number of contracts to clean up anthrax-infected buildings, including the Hart Senate Office Building. Carlyle owned 25 per cent of the firm, which it subsequently sold on. Likewise its investment in US Investigation Services, a company that specialises in checking the background of employees, saw business improve dramatically.
'I do not exaggerate when I say that Carlyle is taking over the world in government contract work, particularly defence work,' one employee told Briody. Other Carlyle companies also benefited, including EC&G which makes X-ray scanners, Composite Structures, a maker of metal-bond structures in fighter jets and missiles, and Lier Siegler Services Inc, a major military contractor, providing logistics support.
Carlyle - whose high-profile investors include George Soros and Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal - refutes suggestions it profits from war. Co-founder William Conway even went on record saying 'no one wants to be a beneficiary of 11 September.'
This may be true, but unfortunately for the Carlyle Group its investments are beneficiaries of this new era of multilateral conflict. Indeed, a case can be made that even those companies Carlyle wouldn't class as defence investments - and which aren't examined by Briody - have benefited.
Last month it bought CSX Lines, an ocean carrier firm that specialises in shipping heavy equipment. One of its biggest customers is the US military. Late last year it bought Firth Rixson, a specialist engineering firm that makes aerospace parts. It also has a 33 per cent stake in Qinetiq, the government's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.
Whatever Carlyle says, its image as being at the apex of what Eisenhower termed the 'military industrial complex' endures.
Postwar Iraq could be oil king
WASHINGTON - In gaining swift control of Iraq's southern oil fields and terminals, U.S.-led forces have put the country on a course to becoming again one of the world's petroleum powers, experts agree.
After 20 years in decline following wars with Iran and the United States, Iraq's oil industry could emerge within several years as a potential rival to Saudi Arabia's oil dominance, the experts say, as well as a fulcrum of future energy politics for the United States, Europe and Asia.
The fate of Iraq's northern oil fields at Kirkuk is not clear. But the seizure of the massive Rumeila field near Kuwait and allied control of other potential super-reservoirs just to the north, at Majnoon and West Qurnah, is enough to place Iraq back in the company of leading energy producers if the removal of President Saddam Hussein's regime is completed and a stable government can be formed.
''When these huge fields are developed, there will be a secure new supply of oil for the world. This is the true reward'' for ousting Hussein, said Muhammad-Ali Zainy, an Iraqi oil official who fled the country in 1982, in an interview in December.
Zainy recently left a London consulting firm to return to the Persian Gulf in hopes of a role in a new Iraq oil ministry, a colleague said.
An agenda of critical postwar issues, until now hypothetical subjects of planning and debate in government offices, corporate boardrooms and policy think tanks, is suddenly immediate and real.
Assuming victorious U.S. forces turn Iraq's oil reserves over to a new government in Baghdad -- as the Bush administration has pledged -- who would run Iraq's oil program?
Would a new Iraqi oil ministry favor the companies of the United States and Britain over those of Russia and France, who had won billions of dollars in development contracts from Hussein's deputies?
Would a postwar Iraq, an original member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that has been on OPEC's sidelines since its defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, support Saudi goals of keeping world oil prices within a stable range, about $25 a barrel?
Or would Iraq rush to refill its treasury by boosting production, and driving down oil prices, at the expense of the Saudis, Iran, Kuwait and other producers? In that scenario, could OPEC survive?
President Bush's critics, at home and abroad, have contended that the campaign against Hussein was aimed, in large part, at putting Iraq's oil reserves into friendly hands.
''If the U.S. invades and controls Iraq, clearly the U.S. oil companies will head the first bid in terms of production, distribution and, of course, profits,'' consumer activist Ralph Nader said on National Public Radio last month.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and other administration officials called such charges a canard. ''The oil of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq. And we will help the people of Iraq use that oil for their benefit and not to threaten their neighbors,'' Powell said.
U.S. energy industry executives agree with Powell.
''I don't think you'll see the U.S. government move in and try to exert direct control -- or even direct influence,'' said Barry Worthington, executive director of the U.S. Energy Association, a group of energy firms and government agencies. ``That would be too bold and too apparent an outcome that would cast suspicions on motivations.''
Iraq's rich resources are coveted by the world's oil companies. Yet, even if the Kirkuk fields escape damage, Iraq's oil facilities will need as much as $5 billion in investment and years of reconstruction to repair two decades of war damage and neglect, experts said.
Last year, Iraq said it had signed new deals with oil companies in France, China and Russia to develop new fields, a commitment of more than $30 billion, according to Deutsche Bank. All those companies will be back in the hunt, joined by U.S. and British energy firms.
The country's reserves, estimated at 110 billion barrels, are triple those of the United States, and are exceeded only by Saudi Arabia's.
Probe Sought of Pentagon Adviser Perle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. Democrat has called for an investigation of Richard Perle, an architect of the war on Iraq, for possible conflicts of interest in his roles as corporate adviser and Pentagon consultant.
Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, asked the Pentagon's inspector general to probe Perle's work as a paid adviser to bankrupt telecommunications company Global Crossing Ltd. and his guidance on investment opportunities resulting from the Iraq conflict.
"I am aware of several potential conflicts that warrant your immediate review," Conyers said on Monday in a letter to the Defense Department's inspector general, Joseph Schmitz. The letter was made available on Tuesday.
"Mr. Perle is considered a 'special government employee' and is subject to government ethics prohibition -- both regulatory and criminal -- on using public office for private gain," Conyers' letter said.
Perle did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday but has said he has always followed ethics rules. A spokesman for the Defense Department declined to comment. Standard practice is for the inspector general to review such requests and determine whether an investigation is warranted.
"The president is confident that all laws will be followed by all people who are on all commissions," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in response to a question about Perle at his daily news conference.
Perle chairs the Defense Policy Board, created in 2001 to advise the Pentagon, but has no official policymaking role and is not paid. A leading Washington hawk, he has played an influential role in developing the Bush administration's blueprint for ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Critics have questioned Perle's activities when not advising Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
GLOBAL CROSSING REVIEW
Perle signed on to help Global Crossing, a bankrupt operator of an international fiber-optic network, win U.S. approval to sell a 61.5 percent stake to Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte.
The plan has run into trouble with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Including Rumsfeld and other top national security officials, the panel can block mergers and acquisitions it feels could harm to U.S. interests.
Global Crossing began talks to restructure the deal after the committee raised concern that its network would be controlled by a company with strong ties to China. Hutchison is majority owned by Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing.
Perle has said he would be paid $125,000 for his advice and another $600,000 if the government approves the deal.
An article in The New York Times cited a March 7 affidavit in which Perle discussed his "unique perspective" on national defense and security and said he had contacted a government official on Global Crossing's behalf.
"The fact that Mr. Perle may be reconsidering filing the affidavit does not alter the existence of the alleged conflict," Conyers said, citing the newspaper article.
Conyers also asked the Pentagon to probe reports that Perle participated in a conference call sponsored by Goldman Sachs to discuss investment opportunities emerging from the war in Iraq and that he received stock options from a company doing business with the U.S. military.
"I would submit that it is a conflict of interest for a high-ranking government official to be proffering advice on how to profit from the war," Conyers said.
A Goldman Sachs spokesman had no immediate comment.
Conyers also pointed out that Perle sits on the board of Autonomy Corp., which lists the U.S. Army and military as customers, and received stock options.
Iraq war could lead to new World order
Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned that the Iraq crisis could lead to the establishment of a new world order, in an article published today in the offical daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
"It is obvious that not only the fate of Iraq depends of how events unfold, but also the future of international relations for a long time," Ivanov wrote. "The foundation of the future world order is the main issue at stake in this crisis."
He said the unity of the US-led anti-terrorist coalition is also threatened by the military intervention in Iraq as most nations condemn the use of force to achieve the disarmament of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
"It is not by accident that we are now witnessing unprecedented anti-war demonstrations around the world," Ivanov wrote.
He said UN Resolution 1441, which called on Iraq to disarm or face "serious consequences," did not mandate the automatic use of force.
"The resolution of the Iraqi conflict lies with the Security Council, which is responsible for ensuring peace and security in the world.
Russia, along with fellow Security Council permanent members China and France, led efforts to avoid the war, arguing that Iraq could be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction through increased UN inspections and diplomacy.
Germany to oppose 'new US world order'
Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister, said yesterday that Germany would flatly oppose a new world order emerging from the Iraq war, based on an all-powerful US dictating terms to the international community.
In comments reflecting continued bitterness in Berlin over the failure of diplomacy on Iraq, Mr Fischer also questioned whether US allies Britain and Spain had influenced Washington in the build-up to the Iraq war. His comments are likely to stir resentment in London and Madrid.
Referring to the US, Mr Fischer told Der Spiegel magazine: "A world order in which the superpower decides on military strikes based only on its own national interest simply cannot work.
"In the end the same rules must apply for the big, middle-sized and small countries," he added.
Referring to Britain and Spain, he said: "One must ask whether the countries that are such close partners of the US had or have an influence [over Washington's Iraq policy]."
He said the positions taken by the British and Spanish governments had led to "major [domestic] problems that bordered on the destabilisation of democratic systems".
Mr Fischer's remarks, combined with comments he made last Thursday at the outbreak of war, were seen in Berlin as an attempt to counter views among conservatives in Washington that the US would now be able to unilaterally determine the international agenda on disarmament, the United Nations and other issues.
Last Thursday Mr Fischer warned parliament that the US may now mount a series of "wars for disarmament" against "dictators suspected of having weapons of mass destruction".
He said Germany - along with the majority in the UN Security Council - would continue to reject this approach, and would focus on strengthening "international rules and instruments" for disarmament.
Since the war began, both Mr Fischer and Gerhard Schröder, chancellor, have sought to limit further damage to US-German relations by stressing Berlin's willingness to help with Iraq's postwar reconstruction.
Mr Fischer said big transatlantic differences remained, based partly on divergent histories. "In the US there is nothing comparable with Auschwitz or Stalingrad, or the other terrible, symbolic locations in [European] history."
* Police in Hamburg used water cannon yesterday against school students on an anti-war protest, in the first clashes in Germany over the Iraq conflict. Palestinians in the protest had attacked police with sticks and bottles, according to the authorities.
Saddam's Bunkers Said 'Impossible' to Destroy
SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Underground bunkers built for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein can resist massive bombardment and those hiding inside could survive for up to six months, a retired Yugoslav army officer who helped build them said.
"I believe that if Saddam does not leave, and I think he has nowhere to go, they will find him in one of these facilities -- if he does not find a way out by then," retired Lt. Col. Resad Fazlic told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. "These bunkers can resist a direct hit of a 20 kiloton- strong bomb or atomic bomb impact and keep those inside independent of the outside world for six months," said Fazlic, who oversaw the building of the bunkers in the late 1970s.
U.S.-led forces started their six-day-old air and land assault aimed at ousting the Iraqi leader by hitting his compound in Baghdad.
It was not clear if the compound that was hit was one of the two in the Iraqi capital that, Fazlic said, were built for the Iraqi leader.
"I did not take part in the building of this bunker, code-named "2000," but I know it is larger than others, about the size of a soccer pitch, and has everything he might need for a longer stay inside," Fazlic said, referring to one of the Iraqi leader's bunkers.
Fazlic said underground concrete fortresses were built by the former Yugoslav military in the cities of Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra and Nassiriya after Iraqi officials toured similar facilities in former Yugoslavia.
"We also built the so-called "zero," "P" and "C" types of bunkers which were smaller and meant for the military, communications centers and so on but can also resist heavy bombardment and longer isolation," he said.
Fazlic said he took part in the building of more than a dozen underground bunkers in former Yugoslavia which was then led by late President Josip Broz Tito, who had warm relations with Saddam Hussein.
"We built all of these facilities in Iraq because they liked what they saw here," Fazlic said, citing a large bunker dug into a mountain near the southern Bosnian town of Konjic that was meant for the former Yugoslav government in case of war.
"It was a little bit more difficult in Iraq because of the flat terrain. But you would use a valley, dig at the bottom of a hill, build a bunker and than cover it so it can't be spotted from outside," he said.
"The most important thing was to design the main bunker and all those layers above it which were the main protection. Even if you only had to penetrate the main bunker with a missile it would have to impact it at the angle of 90 degrees, otherwise it would ricochet off its rounded surface," he said.
"But before that, it would have to go through protective layers ... and to calculate all the right angles for impact and fire several successful hits in line is almost impossible," he added.
The bunkers also had their own air filtration systems and alternative exits in case the main entrance was blocked. They could only be opened from inside, Fazlic said.
In an Ominous Sky, a City Divines Its Fate
BAGHDAD, March 25 -- The wind's howl buffeted Imad Mohammed's window today, suffocating the peal of bombs from Baghdad's outskirts.
Across the sky, the black haze of burning oil trenches mixed with desert sand from a savage storm to wrap the city in an otherworldly glow. Paper, bags and cardboard were blown across the street. Traffic lights and palm trees swayed. A soldier hunkered near the Tigris River, a black scarf draped over his head like a veil.
To Mohammed, the relentless sandstorm was foreboding, a portent of divine will.
"The storm is from God," he said, looking out his trembling window. "Until the aggression started, never in my life did I see a storm like this. We all believe in God, we all have faith in God. And God is setting obstacles against the Americans."
During six days of war, Baghdadis looking to the heavens for omens have had much to contemplate. A terrifying cascade of U.S. bombs has been followed by the apocalyptic smoke of oil fires lit by Iraqi forces, so dense that cars almost collided. The smoke was joined by today's storm, which abruptly ended Baghdad's struggle to reclaim ordinary life. Shops again were shuttered and streets were deserted as a sickly yellow cloaked the sun.
Weary residents spoke of divine intervention, and in the storm they saw God's determination to aid Iraq. But beneath the surface were churning impulses -- of fear and flight, of fatalism and bravado, of grief and dread. With few exceptions, Iraqis still consider political discussions taboo, especially with a foreign journalist shadowed by an official escort. But the storm seemed to draw out anxieties about a future that no one seems willing to predict.
"Whatever will be will be," said Adnan Khalid, 28, as he negotiated the $2 fare for a private taxi to the northern city of Mosul, where he sent his wife before the war began. "What can we do? If we survive, then we go on living."
Khalid was leaving Baghdad today for what he called "a change in atmosphere."
Across the parking lot, the winds coated cars, taxis and buses with a veneer of dust. Drivers cried out their destinations -- "Tikrit!" "Baiji!" "Mosul!" In one hand, Khalid carried a bag with clothes for three days; with the other, he nervously dragged on a cigarette. By night, he said, he would be far from Baghdad and its bombs, far from the sandstorms and oil fires, far from what comes next.
"I want to be safe. I want to be with my family," Khalid said. "Is there anybody who likes war? Who doesn't want to live peacefully, to live an ordinary life? I want to go to work, I want to finish my business. No one likes war."
"An ordinary life" is a phrase heard often in conversations in Baghdad these days. It resonates perhaps because there is so little that is ordinary here. Wars and sanctions have ordered life, crisis after crisis has unsettled it, and now war promises to undo it.
What residents most seem to covet is routine. On the eve of war, Baghdad's stores shuttered their windows and shielded their doors with iron grates or hastily built brick walls. When the initial assault proved less devastating than feared, a few businesses reopened -- vegetable stands, working-class restaurants, cafes and grocery stores. Among them were barber shops.
Yaacoub Ahmed, with a full head of gray hair, plopped down today in the barber's chair in the working-class neighborhood of Sadriya. The cost: about 15 cents. He pays a visit every month, and neither bombs nor storms would keep him from a haircut.
"Where's the bombing? Up until now, I don't see it," he said, with a touch of bravado. "All we do is hear it. I don't see it."
But he acknowledged sending his wife and five children to what he considered the safety of Diwaniyah, a city in southern Iraq. He stayed in Baghdad to earn a living, making anywhere from 50 cents to $5 a day selling onions, garlic, potatoes and eggplant.
Sitting with friends in the barber shop, he expressed the fatalism that is so pronounced in Iraqi life. Over the clock hung a sign that read "God."
"The future is by God," he said. "No one knows the future. We're not fortunetellers."
Ali Jassim, the barber, nodded. "There's fear," he said. "Nobody knows where the bombs are going to fall, on homes, on government offices, on innocent people. Nothing can stop the Americans. The bombing will go on."
But like Ahmed, he said he was resigned to his fate, a fate that could be decided by either the United States or his own government. "It's not in our hands," he said, speaking in a vague vernacular so common here to speech in public. "We don't have a choice."
That helplessness was echoed at Sa'ee Restaurant in the upscale neighborhood of Palestine. The sandstorm drove customers and their plates of chicken shawarma from the usually crowded patio. The wind slammed sheets of corrugated tin against the roof, and with Sisyphean determination, workers tried in vain to mop the floor of dust that kept blowing inside.
Khaled Ibrahim, sipping sweet lemon tea inside the doorway, surveyed the commotion.
With dust suspended in the air and smoke from oil fires billowing, he said his neighbors were having trouble breathing. He worried that the blasts of bombs would rupture his children's eardrums. And he worried about getting medicine for his blood pressure.
"God gave us the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, he gave us the beautiful north and the marshes in the south," said Ibrahim, a mechanic. "But I feel pity for Baghdad. I feel pity on us who live here."
By evening, the sandstorm gave way to rain. Drops of mud fell on the city, clearing the sky for the last light of dusk. But the wind soon returned with even more force than before, driving the last cars off the road and shaking houses.
Imad Mohammed, who saw in the storm divine intervention, marveled at its force.
"The only time I saw a storm like this was in the American movie 'Twister' and in the words of the holy Koran," he said.
With his two sons, Mohammed sat in his house in the wealthy quarter of Mansour. Like other Iraqis, he boasted of his stockpiled supplies -- water, kerosene for cooking, frozen meat and such staples as rice -- to get him through a war that could last weeks, perhaps months. Before his family, he declared himself fearless, his fate in God's hands. "What God wishes for us, we will see," he said.
But when his sons left the room, he turned more thoughtful.
"I can't show my fear in front of my children," he said softly, with a hint of guilt. "If I'm afraid, they'll become afraid."
"Life's not comfortable," he went on, recalling the 20 missiles that struck near his home the night before, their shockwaves rolling through his house. "You sit in your house, and there's bombing. It might hit innocent homes by mistake. How do you feel? You can't trust a missile. You can't trust a pilot. This is my country, this is my city, and I'm scared."
In a moment of reflection, he worried about the war. How long would it last? At what cost would it be waged? What future would it bring? He seemed encouraged by Iraq's sporadic successes in the conflict, but wondered whether the United States would answer with even greater force, raining destruction on Baghdad and lessening the distinction between civilian and military targets.
"It will be very bloody," he said. "It won't be easy to take Baghdad, you can imagine."
Even more pronounced was his sense of pride, a sentiment wrapped up in the deeply held traditions here of honor and dignity. Iraq, he acknowledged, could never defeat the Americans and the British. It is a Third World country, and the United States is a superpower. But a U.S. victory would have to come at a cost -- suicide perhaps, but with a sense of dignity. It was a sentiment, he said, that was wrapped up in his identity as an Iraqi and his faith as a Muslim. Not once did he mention President Saddam Hussein's name.
"You can't surrender easily; we should fight," said Ahmed, the man at the barber shop. "Our religion says we should fight for our honor. We fear God. We're more afraid of God than we're afraid of the Americans."
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
~Did You Miss These?~
Just a Reminder - Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003
Ravyne Is Moving - Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
The Mission - Sunday, Oct. 12, 2003
Siege Heil - Thursday, Oct. 09, 2003
Litany Of Lies - Wednesday, Oct. 08, 2003
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